Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

Wall Of Skulls Album Cover Art

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls
AFM Records
Release Date: 17/09/2021
Running Time: 49:51
Review by Simon Black
8/10

I have a confession to make. Given that I have a deep love of Power Metal, I have somehow managed to not come across Brainstorm up until this point, which is a little embarrassing for a band that have been around for the best part of thirty years. I am however more familiar with one of Vocalist Andy B. Franck’s previous projects – the now defunct Symphorce, which carved a parallel track to Brainstorm for a number of years until Franck pulled the plug on that particular project a decade ago. That outfit had a more Progressive Metal edge which had great appeal to me personally, but Franck’s distinctive and powerful voice is always going to grab your attention and discovering that a vocalist whose work you liked has another ten albums of back catalogue to dig up is no bad discovery on this bleak Monday morning.

The music here is firmly in the anthemic German Power Metal category, something that seems as natural as breathing to natives of that country. It must be something to do with their rather wonderful beer. Far too much Euro Power material gets bogged down with trying to create convoluted concept albums and forgets about building a record around well-structured and crafted songs, but Brainstorm have this down to a tee. Franck’s voice is very high in the mix, which is not a bad thing, but the problem with that approach is you might miss the sheer subtle song-writing craft that guitarists Torsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric bring to proceedings. The trouble with opting for accessibility for an audience in a festival field to easily singalong to when they don’t know your songs, as many Power acts do is that the tunes can quickly become forgettable after the fact. Not so here. These two really are a pair of riff monsters, with relentless and driven delivery being the order of the day, rather than a focus on overt flourishes of instrumental technical decadence the genre often drips with. The album’s the stronger for it, as the focus is on creating songs that hold the attention with heaviness and rhythm, eschewing the more hook laden melodic catchy anthems that many contemporaries choose.

Not that there isn’t catchiness here, but it mainly comes from Franck, of which the softer ‘Glory Disappears’ gives him chance to adopt a completely different vocal style or the spot on and brilliantly anthemic ‘Solitude’, which takes the top spot favourite song position for me. There’s also plenty of speed and pace in there, with tracks like ‘My Dystopia’ belting out the rhythms and pace without losing the subtlety. Where this record wins over so many of its peers is that it remains consistently strong throughout, to the point where I have struggles to highlight a weak filler song elsewhere. That’s never bad for a Monday.

‘Turn Off The Light’ feat. Seeb from Orden Ogan (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Chamber Thirteen
02. Where Ravens Fly
03. Solitude
04. Escape the Silence
05. Turn Off the Light
06. Glory Disappears
07. My Dystopia
08. End of My Innocence
09. Stigmatized (Shadows Fall)
10. Holding On
11. I, the Deceiver

LINE-UP:
Andy B. Franck – Lead Vocals
Torsten Ihlenfeld – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Milan Loncaric – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Antonio Ieva – Bass
Dieter Bernert – Drums

LINKS:

Brainstorm Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Rhapsody Of Fire – I’ll Be Your Hero EP

I'll Be Your Hero EP Cover Art

Rhapsody Of Fire – I’ll Be Your Hero EP
AFM Records
Release Date: 04/06/2021
Running Time: 41:07
Review by Beth Jones
10/10

Good morning my lovely bunch of heathens, rogues, and degenerates. How the hell are you? It feels like an age since I last wrote a review. I mean, it isn’t, but there’s a lot going on here at Ever Metal HQ at the moment, and life is fast becoming the shitty gift that just keeps on giving. The sun is shining today here in the Wales, too. Great. Unless you’re the possessor of true Celtic skin, like me. If that’s the case, in this weather you will, like me, find the plight of the lowly vampire incredibly relatable. Even my eyeballs are sweating. I mean come on! This is Wales! We’re not used to this sort of heat! We’re used to rain, and sheep, and the distant sounds of a male voice choir lilting over the hills. Anyway, the saving grace in amongst all the detritus is, as always, music. And today I have a cracker for you.

Italian Symphonic Power Metal legends, Rhapsody Of Fire, have been bringing their melodic powerhouse of sounds to our ears for a fair while now. And they’re new EP, “I’ll Be Your Hero”, certainly lives up to the epic sounds that we have come to expect from them. It’s the build up to their next album release, and contains their new single and title track, alongside 7 other tracks; the Japan bonus track, ‘Where Dragons Fly’, 2 live recordings, and 4 versions of the same song, ‘The Wind, The Rain And The Moon’, all sung in different languages – the previously released English version, and versions in Italian, Spanish, and French, respectively.

Opening with the title track, this EP bounds in like a runaway freight train. It’s brash, and theatrical, and hugely decadent, but I bloody love it! The vocals of Giacomo Voli are just sublime. He has such a rich tone to his voice, and it blends so well with the other orchestration that’s going on. The melody line of ‘I’ll Be Your Hero’ is also hellishly catchy and will become your earworm in no time at all.

‘Where Dragons Fly’ takes the pace down a little, but still has some dramatic sweeping orchestration in the midsections. Then, in complete contract, a live version of ‘Rain Of Fury’ pummels in like a hammer drill! What a song! Power Metal with speed and precision. Stunning guitar solos, stunning synths and keys, drums that could easily turn your brain into pulp, and, of course, blistering vocals. The drama and theatrics stay right in the mix for ‘The Courage To Forgive’ (live), as well. It’s slower, but everything just has so much passion. And again, some ridiculously brilliant guitar work enters into the affray. It really does make every bit of me feel alive (and that’s no mean feat these days, I can tell you)!

But the star of the EP is ‘The Wind, The Rain and The Moon’. It’s beautiful and melancholic from the start. Even though their genre suggests a huge classical element, Rhapsody Of Fire have really pushed into the realms of pure classical with this song. The orchestral strings that make up the body of the song remind me of Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’. Sweeping and soaring, mournful and lilting. Stunningly beautiful. Add into that Giacomo’s perfect Tenor voice, and you have something truly magnificent. Then plant into it a climactic point, where guitars, and gentle drums join, and what you have is, in my opinion, one of the most perfect power ballads I have ever heard. And just to make it even more beautiful, we get to explore it in multiple languages, too. Singing in choirs, as I did back in the day, let me experience singing in multiple languages. My favourite (aside from Welsh) was always Italian, because of its full and rounded vowel sounds, which make it so expressive. Listening to ‘Senza Un Addio’ reconfirmed this for me. Italian really is the music of song. This, however, should take nothing away from the Spanish or French versions.

So, to sum up, this EP is rather good. The musicianship, passion, production, and orchestration is as close to perfect as you’re likely to get. You should definitely give it a spin.

I’ll Be Your Hero’ (Official Lyric Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. I’ll Be Your Hero
02. Where Dragons Fly
03. Rain Of Fury (Live)
04. The Courage To Forgive (Live)
05. The Wind, The Rain And The Moon
06. Senza Un Addio
07. Sin Un Adios
08. La Force De Me Battre

LINE-UP:
Giacomo Voli – Vocals
Alex Staropoli – Keyboards
Roby De Micheli – Guitars
Alessandro Sala – Bass
Manu Lotter – Drums

LINKS:

Rhapsody Of Fire Promo Pic (Credit @emanuelealiprandiphotography)
@emanuelealiprandiphotography

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Flotsam And Jetsam – Blood In The Water

Blood In The Water Album Cover Art

Flotsam And Jetsam – Blood In The Water
AFM Records
Release Date: 04/06/2021
Running Time: 53:37
Review by Simon Black
10/10

“You have to listen to this!” These words were said to me at the tail end of the 1980’s by my old school friend, housemate and partner in grime, as I returned to our house of debauchery ready to wreck the weekend. Earlier that day he had purchased vinyl copies of both Flotsam’s ‘Doomsday For The Deceiver’ and the then only just recently released ‘No Place For Disgrace’, so I sat down with a cold one for a quick listen before we went out to paint the town red, but were so entranced by these records that we did in fact forget to go out.

The former record has its place in history as the only album and band to ever receive a 6K review from Kerrang! back in the days where that sort of thing mattered, because we all read it, but frankly both of these gems got listened to so much that the records got worn out. It seemed to me a heinous crime back in those days that this act never achieved the heights of Metallica in the same time lines, but then the latter stealing the former’s bass player (only to turn him off in the mix) is one of the many, many contributory factors in all of that that, never mind the usual challenges of shitty label behaviour, and line-up instability. And bless them, they’ve kept at it through all the grief and shit without losing integrity, although only relatively getting the sort of recognition they deserve and fourteen albums later seem finally starting to make the right sort of waves. I also remember being absolutely blown away by their performance at Bloodstock back in 2014, so for me the campaign to get them on the special guest slot at next year’s show starts right here and right now, because this new record is an absolute monster.

This album opens explosively with ‘Blood In The Water’ – its opening bars are fast, furious, drowning in energy and tighter than a flea’s rectum; with a beat pause before changing tempo to a more melodic harmonised guitar intro before turning up the pace for the verse – a mode retained as it alternates between verses, choruses and bridges. If that doesn’t hammer you into wakefulness then the wisely chosen and blistering single ‘Burn The Sky’ should do the trick – more paced at the outset but no less relentless and impressive when it gets going, because let’s face it, these chaps should have trademarked the words ‘fast’ and ‘furious’ before Universal Studios. But it’s not all furious Thrashing here today and the moments when the record takes a slower and more thoughtful pace is when it kicks up another level. ‘Cry For The Dead’ is a slow burning ballad that takes an emotive and moving boost in tempo, exploring a subject we have all had to live through in the last year or so. When A.K. Knutson screams “I can’t live without the ones I love” we believe it. ‘Too Many Lives’ follows the theme, with way more aggression, but is no less moving and these two are definitely amongst the best songs this massively underrated act have delivered in the past thirty-five years.

The production is absolutely crisp and clear, pulling off the trick of sounding fresh and immediate and well-produced with every musician loud and clear in the mix whilst simultaneously retaining a homogenous band mix and feel. Finally, I can’t let these words pass without a few words about A.K. Knutson’s vocals here either. This does not sound like a man well into his fifties – his voice can shred the high notes, growl the floorboards into insensibility and every shade in between – with transitions between these two states that flawlessly and furiously fly by. ‘On fire’ doesn’t even begin to describe how well he delivers on this record.

A few words about Andy Pilkington’s beautifully crafted cover whilst I am it, as with its demonic alligator lurking in blood-filled post-apocalyptic city ruins, it perfectly evokes the demonic adornment of both the original ‘Doomsday’ record and the colouring and mood of ‘No Place’, making this feel like a wonderfully thematic bookend to a 35 year career, albeit one which feels like it’s just getting into its stride. Still relevant, blisteringly well-written and delivered, this feels like a pinnacle record right here, right now. I’ve given it a 10/10, but I wish we had a Nigel Tufnel eleven setting, because that’s what this band have delivered.

‘Brace For Impact’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Blood In The Water
02. Burn The Sky
03. Brace For Impact
04. A Place To Die
05. The Walls
06. Cry For The Dead
07. The Wicked Hour
08. Too Many Lives
09. Grey Dragon
10. Reaggression
11. Undone
12. Seven Seconds ‘Til The End Of The World

LINE-UP:
Eric “AK” Knutson – Vocals
Steve Conley – Guitar
Michael Gilbert – Guitar
Bill Bodily – Bass
Ken K. Mary – Drums

LINKS:

Flotsam And Jetsam Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Thundermother – Heat Wave (Deluxe Edition)

Heat Wave - Deluxe Edition Album Cover Art

Thundermother – Heat Wave (Deluxe Edition)
AFM Records
Release Date: 21/05/2021
Running Time: 85:25
Review by Simon Black
8/10

This Swedish four piece have done remarkably well since their “Rock’n’Roll Disaster” album debuted in 2014. Not least since this incarnation of the band has basically been rebuilt from the ground up by guitarist Filippa Nässil after the rest of the band split in 2017. Listening to this album you wouldn’t know it – as it’s fresh, energetic and a real ‘screw you’ to the world. This is traditional denim ‘n’ leather rock’n’roll of the calibre that reaches across the aisles commercially and that’s clearly been recognised as AFM are not what you call a small label. That said, whilst the influences are loud and clear, sometimes homage can stray into appropriation, but hey it works…plus you get the chance to play ‘spot the AC/DC riff’ throughout.

This is an extended re-release of last year’s core album, which didn’t do badly given that as another victim of 2020, it’s had no touring support to get it to the masses and tell them that you’ve come back from the brink of the abyss. In fact ‘rebirth’ would probably be a better description, as apart from the style, they sound nothing like their first three albums. They sound better…

Disc one, for the old farts like me that still like something to hold in our arthritic hands is the original 2020 album, with the second disc comprising of a number of new tracks that missed the album, some acoustic versions of ‘Driving In Style’, ‘Sleep’ and ‘Dog From Hell’; a few live tracks and topped off with a cover of Alan O’Day / Johnny Stevenson’s ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ as popularised by The Righteous Brothers. As cover songs go, it’s probably the one song that sums up where these girls are coming from.

The highlights are many, but I would personally include ‘Free Ourselves’ – another one where the line between homage and plagiarism is a bit thin and the Young brothers definitely deserve some credit for influencing the ‘Razor’s Edge’ style intro riff for this one, the fantastic ‘Dog From Hell’ or ‘Back in ’76, with its anthemic period glam rock infused style that Joan Jett ought to get a royalty check for, alongside Malcolm Young, but it’s clearly the sort of song screaming out to be played live. To be honest, you could say the same of almost any of the tracks on here, although the better ones are clearly front loaded on the first half of the original album.

‘Sleep’ is a very 80’s centric US Radio Friendly Power Ballad fare, and while brilliantly delivered is not breaking new ground here, and is probably the only track I would skip. It feels like something the label insisted on, rather than what the band wanted to deliver, as it sticks out like a sore thumb and slightly spoils the flow on what is otherwise an absolute belter of a record.

You Can’t Handle Me’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
CD1
01. Loud And Alive
02. Dog From Hell
03. Back In ‘76
04. Into The Mud
05. Heat Wave
06. Sleep
07. Driving In Style
08. Free Ourselves
09. Mexico
10. Purple Sky
11. Ghosts
12. Somebody Love Me
13. Bad Habits

CD2
01. The Road Is Ours
02. Show Me What You Got
03. You Can´t Handle Me
04. Driving In Style (Acoustic)
05. Dog From Hell (Acoustic)
06. Sleep Feat. Jesper Binzer (Acoustic)
07. Give Me Some Lights (Live)
08. Thunderous (Live)
09. Hellevator (Live)
10. Rock’n’Roll Heaven (feat. Dregen & Pontus Snibb)

LINE-UP:
Filippa Nässil – Guitar
Guernica Mancini – Vocals
Emlee Johansson – Drums
Majsan Lindberg – Bass

LINKS:

Thundermother Promo Pic
Thundermother

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Motorjesus – Hellbreaker

Hellbreaker Album Cover Art

Motorjesus – Hellbreaker
AFM Records
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Running Time: 44:32
Review by Simon Black
9/10

Motorjesus have been at this a long time, coming from the Lemmy school of ‘down to earth roll up the sleeves and get on with it’ corner of Rock ’n’ Roll. They date back to the early 1990’s, having changed their names from the slightly less commercially acceptable The Shitheadz and have been producing albums under the Motorjesus moniker since 2004. This is album number six for the German five piece and follows the well-trodden path of high-octane German Rock ’n’ Roll wrapped up in a colourful mascot-emblazoned cover. That long experience is positively tangible, but at the same time it’s wrapped up in a really fresh and crisply energetic delivery of the calibre newer bands often exude.

This is a band who know exactly what they need to deliver and who seem to have no problem cranking out the tunes on demand. The vocal delivery is very gruff and gutsy, but so full of energy and enthusiasm from Chris “Howling” Birx with lyrics that follow the formula of driving music meets fantasy, perhaps summed up best by the nod to Judge Dredd and more specifically his gun, both named ‘Lawgiver’ which alongside pure road music like ‘Drive Through Fire’ and the absolutely belting ‘Car Wars’ is road music at its best and will go down a treat at a bike rally. It’s Rock ’n’ Roll, so I wasn’t expecting complex technical instrumental interplay – this is all about living fast and delivering the goods and I can foresee each and every one of these songs working well in a sweaty club somewhere (assuming there are any left when this fucking virus has been kicked into touch). That said, it may not be overtly technical, but that does not mean that there is some seriously skilful musicianship at work here as these boys can play fast, melodic and heavy as fuck all in one go – with enough boogie in the rhythms and beats to keep feet tapping and heads nodding. They are also running in a new guitarist in Patrick Wassenburg who seems to have subtly changed their sounds in favour of the more Metal tropes of blistering solo work to go with that crunch rhythm based delivery and the opportunity for a bit of harmonised playing. And pretty good with it he is too, so the end result is a Metal tinged R’n’R album that really is going to appeal broadly.

From what I can gather, this album isn’t doing anything conceptually, tonally or lyrically that they haven’t done before but, if like me, you are not familiar with the back catalogue, then with eleven fast and furious, well-delivered tracks to get you going this is an excellent place to start. And this does not sound like a band who’ve been at it forever with a huge back catalogue. This is new, fresh and positively full of energy. Spot on.

‘Firebreather’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Drive Through Fire
02. Battlezone
03. Hellbreaker
04. Beyond The Grave
05. Dead Rising
06. Car Wars
07. Firebreather
08. Lawgiver
09. Black Hole Overload
10. Back To The Bullet
11. The Outrun

LINE-UP:
Chris “Howling” Birx – Vocals
Andy Peters – Guitars
Patrick Wassenberg – Guitars
Dominik Kwasny – Bass
Adam Borosch – Drums

LINKS:

Motorjesus Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

U.D.O. – Live In Bulgaria 2020: Pandemic Survival Show

Live In Bulgaria 2020, Pandemic Survival Show Album Cover Art

U.D.O. – Live In Bulgaria 2020: Pandemic Survival Show
AFM Records
Release Date: 19/03/2021
Running Time: 178:15
Review by Simon Black
5/10

Although Udo Dirkschneider has arguably been more successful outside of Accept with his U.D.O. project than he was in Accept (or certainly than Accept have been since he left them), I seem to have managed to largely miss out on his contribution to the Metal world (OK, I heard ‘Balls To The Wall’ back in the day, but it never did much for me). Which makes this quite an interesting experience to listen to, as it means I’m coming to this German Heavy Metal stalwart as if for the first time. The show was recorded last year in a socially distanced Roman amphitheatre environment in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and although the crowd size was clearly limited, that’s not slowing their enthusiasm down noticeably.

This is primarily about a visual release, with dual DVD/CD and Blu-Ray/CD formats being available alongside a strictly limited vinyl audio only pressing, which is why for those encountering this on audio streaming only the full two hours and eighteen minutes running time might seem a little daunting. Given that there’s been plenty of live material from the man in recent years it might be argued that this wasn’t necessary, but then the environment is rather visually special if you go for that format and his fans tend to be very loyal and therefore more than happy to shell out for it.

It’s straight ahead traditional Metal and so it should be, with a fair number of Accept tracks alongside the solo material just in case anyone has forgotten where he came from. The track choice is worth dwelling on for a moment as it’s got plenty of less obvious choices in there, which although this gives the release something to distinguish itself from other recent live offerings, does mean it’s not necessarily as engaging for the casual audience member. Not that this is pitched at anything other than the hardened core of his very loyal fan base.

There’s plenty of live energy here and that distinctive gravelly voice is still there but does sometime seem to struggle with the sustain and vibrato, but then he is nearly seventy (which is still probably older than the combined ages of everyone else in the band). Dirkschneider also manages to keep the crowd well engaged, interacting well and encouraging huge amounts of enthusiasm (although to be fair at this point in 2020 I would have started a circle pit at my kids’ school play if they had been allowed to hold it). With twenty-five tracks you also get value for money, but I forgive anyone if they chose to skip the drum or bass solo segments, as quite frankly they’re one part of the 80’s best left in the past.

As for the musical performance, the band are tight enough, and work well together, but are very much in the background of the mix to the vocals. There’s a lot of energy coming off of the band, but unfortunately it’s let down by the fact that his voice although maintaining that distinctive timbre just doesn’t have the strength and power it had in the past. Consequently with much of the music being in a key he has a chance of hitting, that up tempo energy of the older material just doesn’t quite materialise.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Tongue Reaper
02. Make The Move
03. Midnight Mover
04. Wrong Side Of Midnight
05. Metal Machine
06. Independence Day
07. Rose In The Desert
08. Vendetta
09. Rising High
10. Prologue: The Great Unknown
11. In The Darkness
12. I Give As Good As I Get
13. Princess Of The Dawn
14. Timebomb
15. Drum Solo
16. Bass Solo
17. Hungry And Angry
18. One Heart One Soul
19. Man And Machine
20. Animal House
21. They Want War
22. Metal Heart
23. Fast As Shark
24. Balls To The Wall
25. Outro (Stillness Of Time)

LINE-UP:
Udo Dirkschneider – Vocals
Andrey Smirnov – Guitar
Sven Dirkschneider – Drums
Fabian Dee Dammers – Guitar
Tilen Hudrap – Bass

LINKS:

U.D.O. Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Nightmare – Aeternam

Aeternam Cover Art

Nightmare – Aeternam
AFM Records
Release Date: 02/10/2020
Running Time: 48:51
Review by Mark Pritchard
8/10

Recently, for at least the last 2 weeks, while the weather has been trying to decide whether it wants to rain or to snow (normal for the UK), and through some really tough days missing loved ones that are no longer with us, I’ve been taking the opportunity to listen to French Heavy/Power Metal band Nightmare, and their most recent album “Aeternam”! While outside the days may be gloomy, this has really made the sun shine for me. Let me take a moment of your time to tell you about them, and their brilliant new release.

Nightmare were originally founded all the way back in 1979, and have had an amazing journey so far, which has included being the opening band for Def Leppard back in 1993, playing a few of the biggest metal festivals such as Wacken and Hellfest, as well as supporting the likes of Sabaton, Saxon, Grave Digger, and Blind Guardian, which can definitely not be understated! Since being founded, Nightmare have released, no less than 10 studio albums, a live album, “Live Deliverance”, in 2000, and a compilation album in the shape of “Travel In The Spheres Of Time” in 2006. Now we arrive at their 11th studio album “Aeternam”!

From the very first listen, one thing that has struck me is the intensity of the album. Both the instrumentals, and the clear, but also intense vocals of new singer Marianne “Madie” Dien, make “Aeternam” an album that stands out from the crowd. To be able to keep adapting with the times and to still bring that same fierce, in your face music, with so many releases, really shows the band’s experience, and it hits the mark! At times, especially with some of the solos that appear on “Aeternam” I can’t help but join in on air guitar! Then there are times where I can sit back with my headphones on, just listening away, enjoying a nice cup of tea, just letting the music wash over me.

After listening to “Aeternam” as much as I have, picking one song that stands out more than the rest isn’t the easiest thing to do, as every track is brilliant for their own reasons. But if I had to pick it would be ‘Crystal Lake’. This amazing song, with its soothing/haunting instrumental with calm vocals to start, makes me take complete notice straight away. Then, as the track progresses it builds in intensity perfectly. It’s such a great track.

This album is definitely one that will feature on my playlist for some time to come, and I recommend everyone give it a listen, especially those of you that love proper Heavy/Power Metal. Nightmare really should be a lot bigger than they are!

‘Divine Nemesis’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Temple Of Acheron
02. Divine Nemesis
03. The Passenger
04. Downfall Of A Tyrant
05. Crystal Lake
06. Lights On
07. Aeternam
08. Under The Ice
09. Black September
10. Anneliese

LINE-UP:
Madie – Vocals.
Yves Campion – Bass & Vocals.
Franck Milleliri – Guitar.
Matt Asselberghs – Guitar & Vocals.
Niels Quiais – Drums.

LINKS:

Nightmare Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Mark Pritchard and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Escape Of The Phoenix Album Cover Art

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix
AFM Records
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 58:43
Review by Beth Jones
9/10

Swedish progressive metallers, Evergrey, are somewhat of a mainstay within the metal world, and you’re always guaranteed top quality musicality and production with their studio albums. The upcoming 12th studio album, “Escape Of The Phoenix”, is certainly no exception to this. But what I will say is that I didn’t reach this conclusion straight away. This is one of those albums that grows on you, and I’m glad that I gave it more of a chance, and more listen throughs, than I sometimes do when writing reviews.

In keeping with Evergrey’s unique style – heavy, melancholic, and progressive – this album has given Tom Englund more freedom to write hugely thought-provoking lyrics, on any subject (the previous three albums had to reign that in a little because they were a concept trilogy). And let me tell you that he has completely achieved what he set out to, and then some. Lyrically, this album doesn’t just hit you in the feels, it tears at them, rips them out, rubs them in your face, then stuffs them back in again. One such example of this is the beautifully sorrowful, ‘Where August Mourns’. The first section of the chorus speaks so much… “If I’m just aching this can’t go on, I came from chasing dreams to feel alone, There must be changes, miss to feel strong, I really need life to touch me…” If you’re having a wobble, lyrics like these can take you one of two ways, but they’re damn cathartic that’s for sure.

But that’s really the case with the whole album, both lyrically and musically. It’s the pleasure/pain – the juxtaposition of beauty and turmoil, living and existing, and the highs and lows of emotions, which Evergrey have a masterful way of capturing. And this is why it took me a few listens to really connect. It’s too deep to just listen to without really concentrating on it.

We get an extra special treat on track 5 ‘The Beholder’ because not only does it encompass the musical and lyrical mastery that is this album, but it has a guest performance from Dream Theater vocalist, James LaBrie, who Joins Tom for a superb duet. Tom has always cited Dream Theater as one of his big influences, so I can imagine that for him this would have been an epic experience, and it has created another amazing song.

This is one of the highlights of the album for me, along with ‘Stories’, ‘In Absence Of Sun’, and ‘You From You’, for their tenderness, and expansiveness; and ‘Forever Outside’ and ‘Escape Of The Phoenix’ for their thumping, punchy riffs, and almost industrial undertones.

Yup, I’m an emotional old sausage, and the more I listen to this album, the more it draws me in. It’s huge, it’s intricate, it’s as close as anyone will get to perfection production wise, and musically it’s interesting and challenging, as well as exceptionally talented. It started as a 6/10, but has crept up my scale with each listen, and could well end up being one of my releases of the year. I feel a little foolish to have even made a quick judgement of it to begin with. If anyone wants me, I’ll be in the garage flogging myself!

‘The Beholder’ feat. James LaBrie (Lyric Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Forever Outsider
02. Where August Mourn
03. Stories
04. A Dandelion Cipher
05. The Beholder (feat. James LaBrie)
06. In The Absence Of Sun
07. Eternal Nocturnal
08. Escape Of The Phoenix
09. You From You
10. Leaden Saints
11. Run

LINE-UP:
Tom S. Englund – Vocals, Guitar
Henrik Danhage – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rikard Zander – Keyboard, Backing Vocals
Jonas Ekdahl – Drums
Johan Niemann – Bass, Backing Vocals

LINKS:

Evergrey Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Silent Skies – Satellites

Silent Skies – Satellites
AFM Records
Release Date: 11/12/2020
Running Time: 55:42
Review by Beth Jones
9/10

2020…What a weird old year. And as it draws to a close you can’t help but look back with melancholy reflection upon the events of the last 12 months. Well, I can’t anyway. And “Satellites”, the new album from Silent Skies, provides a very fitting soundtrack to accompany my thoughts.

Silent Skies is a collaboration between Tom Englund, the dynamic front man of Swedish progressive band, Evergrey, and Vikram Shankar, a classically trained pianist, who grew up drawing heavy influence from Evergrey. Their journey together started when Tom saw Vikram’s piano interpretation of Evergrey’s ‘Distance’, on YouTube, and was intrigued by the musicality he displayed. They met up, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The album is centred around Tom Englund’s powerful, but tender vocals, alongside Vikram’s stunningly cinematic piano compositions, although it does have other instrumentation in some tracks. For me, there is nothing more tranquil than stripped back vocals and piano. Maybe I’m biased, being a vocalist and pianist, but the tones of piano and voice hold a deep innocence that just can’t be replicated any other way. It’s the type of sound that makes you hold your breath for fear of disturbing the players.

The album opens with ‘Horizons’. Starting with a piano introduction, the lamenting tune is joined by Tom Englund’s vocals, singing a simple melody, designed to compliment the piano line, rather than overpower it. I think this may be double layered, to give it a more 3-dimensional sound. The pair continue as the track builds, and gentle strings, and an African sounding drumbeat, are introduced in the background.

Track 2, ‘Endless’ begins much more vocal driven, with the piano sitting as an accompaniment. This changes however, to a cinematic instrumental section in the middle, complete with harmonized ‘aaaaah’s, and then develops an 80’s soft rock ballad feel, before returning to the lamenting piano we hear at the beginning of the album.

These two tracks pretty much set the tone for the album. It’s beautifully understated throughout, but also stark, as the instrumentation leaves nowhere for the players to hide. This makes it a very honest and open work, which pleases me a lot. There’s no need for fancy new-fangled ideas. Just some serious musicality from both Englund and Shankar.

Along with nine original compositions, we also get treated to a hugely different arrangement of the Eurythmics’ 80s classic, ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’. The original is truly an iconic song, but this arrangement takes it to a whole new world.

Following that is, my favourite track on the album, ‘Walls’. It Shows off both Tom’s vocal skills, and Vikram’s delicate piano, beautifully, and it grows and swells throughout, with the addition of a lamenting Cello, and violin, and some seriously thunderous bowed double bass notes, that really reach into your soul. It comes full circle to finish, with all other sounds ebbing away, to leave just solitary piano notes and Tom’s vocals.

If you’re a fan of classical cinematic music, Tom Englund’s voice, or indeed just need an accompaniment to melancholic reflections, then I can thoroughly recommend this album.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Horizons (Extended Version)
02. Endless
03. Dreams
04. Us
05. Solitude
06. Oceans
07. Here Comes The Rain Again
08. Walls
09. Distance
10. 1999

LINE-UP:
Tom Englund – Vocals
Vikram Shankar – Piano

LINKS:


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Theatre Of Tragedy – Musique (20th Anniversary Edition)

Theatre Of Tragedy – Musique (20th Anniversary Edition)
AFM Records
Release Date: 04/12/2020
Running Time: 88:44
Review by Rick Eaglestone
9/10

20 Years after its initial release “Musique” has returned – this time, its first on vinyl, also brings with it a multitude of bonus and unreleased tracks.

There must have been something in the water around the late 90’s and early 00’s as it seemed to be a fashion for bands to deviate from their roots and step in another direction. Now, with some bands, it took me a while to accept this but with Theatre Of Tragedy it was instantaneous and a really nice change from the symphonic sound that was quickly becoming overdone and saturated

It may be sacrilegious to feel this way but opening track ‘Machine’ is still my all-time favourite track, which after two decades may now be accepted, as at the time, I received gasps of horror and disgust from friends when revealing this.

Tracks like ‘City Of Light’, and especially ‘Fragment’, still give me goosebumps. There is no denying just how hypnotic Liv Kristine’s vocals are…even now!

Title track ‘Musique’s electronica sound hasn’t dated, as the melodies that accompany it strike a great balance. This is also true of the following track ‘Commute’ The lyrical content takes a more futuristic approach with ‘Radio’ and as previously mentioned Liv Kristine’s vocal shine through but, on this occasion, more so Raymond I Rohonyi’s as well as the hypnotic riff running throughout.

First single to be released ‘Image’ weaves into the pulsating song about street fighting ‘Crash/Concrete’, which has a little slice of harsh electro, so the slower ‘Retrospect’, which follows, is a welcome change of pace.

The intro to ‘Reverie’ still reminds me of a Commodore 64 game loading but, in fairness, the sound is in keeping with the start of the millennium so, once you get past that, you should enjoy the track. ‘Space Age’ is appropriately named, but purely instrumental. Originally, at this point, the album contained the track ‘The New Man’ but with this version it’s the French version of ‘Image’

This 20th Anniversary Edition does contain ‘The New Man’ further on, as well as the unreleased ‘Quirk’, which has a great chorus and blends in well with both the remastered tracks, by Jacob Hansen, and alternative versions included. A final note is that both formats (CD and Vinyl) have the same tracklist, so there is no need to have to buy both editions.

It’s nice to play an album that you haven’t heard in a few years and still feel the same way about it! This has been remastered well and from a personal stance it’s something that I will be re-purchasing on the newer format in the near future.

TRACKLISTING:

CD1
01. Machine
02. City Of Light
03. Fragment
04. Musique
05. Commute
06. Radio
07. Image
08. Crash/Concrete
09. Retrospect
10. Reverie
11. Space Age
12. Image (French Version)

CD2
13. Fragment
14. Machine
15. City Of Light
16. Reverie
17. Radio
18. Commute
19. Retrospect
20. Quirk
21. Crash/Concrete
22. The New Man

LINE-UP:
Raymond I. Rohonyi – Vocals
Liv Kristine – Vocals
Frank Claussen – Guitars
Lorentz Aspen – Keyboards
Hein Frode Hansen – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rick Eaglestone and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.